By Steven V. Philips –
Some of today’s “brilliant” kitchen details are not.
Recently I lightly brushed one of those very elegant wine stems sitting on the granite counter at Yalc’s deb party. it fell over. And shattered. Into 37,000 shards of costly crystal. The kitchen was roped off. The $500 dollar vacuum was summoned into service. Haz-mat was alerted.
That reinforced it for me about (any) stone counters. Phooey. Hard natural surfaces don’t give us klutzes half of a fighting chance.
Now the both of you who read this column, under duress of being omitted from the Fabulous Philips Fortune, know I’m King Corian. Why? Because even though in our past three houses I’ve constantly hit the edges of the (all three) solid-surface kitchen counters with a multitude of plates coming out of the dishwasher, no chipping of plates occurred. Or of the counter edge. Nor have I suffered any explosions of the tipped wine stems scenario. Or cleaned the crud gathering either at the under-mount sink or under the overlaying sink trim ring because on solid-surface tops the joints, sink to top, are smooth.
And, being a well known climatologist, I claim that since the house heat is turned down at night, the damn counter will radiate cold all the way through breakfast. More to the point, natural stone tops do scratch, not to be easily repaired. Given, stone is great for pastry. Stick to that area. As an aside, my mother-in-law once left her diamond tiara on a marble counter and it scratched the counter when I picked it up. I did escape the guillotine but I was disinherited and never rose to be the King.
And what about those monster sinks? Now I realize that many of you roast a turkey every week and need that bathtub-sized sink to clean your broiler pan. Or you’re running a dog wash for Labradors. But how big a sink do the rest of us need?
Then there’s the faucet. First, watch out for the “painted” ones. Actually they’re hotsey-totsie epoxy electro-whatsis applied with space age technology to last a lifetime. And I’ve got the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you. They chip. They stain. They chip more. And the “stainless” finishes aren’t that stainless. So kiddies, avoid the colors/white finish. And don’t go too cheap on the stainless models either. Plus, since plastic parts are in most of them, figure five years on that “lifetime warranty.”
Also consider faucets that pull out, rather than a fixed length. Allows you to fill pots that don’t fit in your reality-sized sink. Or fill a watering can. And you can easily wash out your sink’s corners.
About backsplashes. No self-respecting kitchen designer would dream of unselling this glamorous accessory. There are big bucks in backsplaces. But since a backsplash is supposed to protect the wall in back of the stove from flying grease, you have to ask yourself, just how violent a cook are you? I’ve seen some splash treatments that equal the cost of the appliances in front of them.
On to base cabinets. Use pull-out drawers, not stationery shelves. Unless you like having two doors to open 100% all-the-way, block traffic, whack your knees and injure the hound awaiting crumbs. So opt for drawers, lots of them and not deep, because just how deep are your skillets? And line those drawers with good heavy liners that you can remove to clean. In your “reasonably-sized” sink.
Upper cabinets. Go all-the-way to the ceiling. Leave an open space on top and what goes there? Besides dust hares? OK, dusty artificial plants in which the hares can hide. Isn’t closed storage for lesser used items better? Say yes.
And while we’re talking upper cabinets, what about open shelves? Reconsider this over-done concept of cabinets that you can see into which, in the store showroom, look tres spiffy. LED illuminated. Perfectly filled. Color coordinated. Not crowded. Geometrically arrayed. Spotless glass. Just like you live? Oh, you so fib.
Unless you have live-in, neurotic help that has plate-stack-fever, combined with an intense dislike of dust, open shelves are not so good. Or even clear glass doors. Unless you own only perfectly coordinated everything. Or you like the tag-sale look. Opt for opaque glass if you must be trendy. Here are my tips for what should be trendy in the kitchen.
- Think classically conservative and I don’t mean this politically. Have been in some kitchens that were done in the seventies in neutral shades (I still prefer white) that, with a little updating, can go on for 20 more years.
- Put “today-2012” in accents that can be updated or evolve with your taste and the times. Think “replace pulls.” Think “replace wall paint.” Think “replace splash.” Even “replace counter top.”
- Do not fall for what’s “hot-hot-hot” today. Think long-term livability. Remember bright colored counter tops or tile tops? When those avocado appliances fell out of favor? Or beige? Or red? Or mirror stainless before the easy-wipe (sort of) matte finish?
- Over-invest in storage space. You can’t go wrong.
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